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Simon and Kelly Moore Showcase Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa: A Heavenly Blend of Luxury and Eco-Travel

Simon and Kelly Moore Showcase Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa: A Heavenly Blend of Luxury and Eco-Travel
Simon and Kelly Moore Showcase Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa: A Heavenly Blend of Luxury and Eco-Travel

Come for the nautical charm, stay for the illuminating sophistication.

Who says it’s impossible to establish a resort that is grand, yet environmentally conscious in equal measures? In a conversation with Indonesia Expat, Simon and Kelly Moore, the general managers of Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa, shared the first time they fell in love with the nautical nirvana that is Bunaken Island, North Sulawesi, how providing their guests with an opportunity to make a difference in environmental welfare is now vital in creating an enjoyable holiday experience, and how a certain, magnetic quote from a renowned, Senegalese poet Baba Dioum helped influence their philosophy as modern, forward-thinking hoteliers.

Hi, Simon and Kelly. Let’s get started by introducing yourselves a bit. What can you tell us about yourselves?

SIMON: I am 43 years old from England. My story is a little different from my wife, Kelly’s. I had a girlfriend, a mortgage, a car, and a reasonably paid job. I always had the urge to travel, however, and one day, after splitting with my girlfriend, I decided to sign my house over to her, sold my car, and moved to Thailand. I pretty much sold everything I owned. I had some money in my bank, I fitted all of my life and belongings into one large rucksack, and off I went. It was the best decision I had ever made. In six months, I learned to dive and, with the help of the dive centre manager that I was working for on a commission basis, got my instructor rating. I met Kelly and we decided to travel the world together. It’s now been 12 years and I love everything about this incredible lifestyle.

KELLY: I am 33 years old. I was born and raised in South Africa in the small coastal town of Port Elizabeth where my family owns and runs a very popular restaurant and bar. Throughout my school career, my time was divided between working as a volunteer at the local aquarium rehabilitating penguins and seals, working as a receptionist/waitress at the then-famous “Seaview Hotel”, and spending time on the beach. From a very early age, my passions were all things ocean, learning to dive, and needing money to keep that hobby alive — which is where working in the hotel industry came into play. Naturally, when it came to choosing a career path, my first choice was to become a diving instructor and I became a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer at the age of 18. My first diving instructor job saw me move to Thailand in 2012 at the age of 21 and I have not looked back since. I met my husband, Simon, that same year, and we happened to be working at the same dive centre. Together, we have been on an incredible, 12-year adventure. After leaving Thailand, we initially worked around the world as diving instructors and, thereafter, moved on to manage dive centres and small dive lodges. We even tried our hands at working on cruise ships! In 2015, we saw our most noticeable change in the industry when we moved to Seychelles and started managing activity centres within five-starred resorts such as Four Seasons, setting up luxury yachts for VIP clients, and maintaining private villas. After five years in the Seychelles, we felt the need to move on so that we could use our gained experience and knowledge and channel them towards managing higher-end, exclusive resorts tailored specifically to divers which, as luck and faith would have it, led us to the privileged position of becoming the general managers for Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort and Spa. It has been a year and 4 months since then, and we couldn’t be happier.

Do you guys still remember the first time you visited Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa? What is it about the resort that you found so captivating?

SIMON & KELLY: Yes, like it was just yesterday! I think the highlight for us was the first day we arrived and had a grand tour of the resort and surrounding area by the owners, Simon and Elaine Wallace. We both asked out loud how this place could be more beautiful in person than what social media and its website images had portrayed. In many places we have worked and visited, the case was always the opposite. Bunaken, however, is so much more than just an island, and I think that — aside from the most obvious of having extremely beautiful and healthy reefs as well as diving and topside scenery — the most captivating aspect has to be the people and the local community. If you read through some of the TripAdvisor reviews for Bunaken Oasis, in particular, you will see that what reviewers mention has always come back to the resort’s friendly, warm, and welcoming staff. This is something genuine to not only our staff but also the Bunaken community as a whole. And it is because of this, it made coming into this position that much easier and the feeling of being at home even more so.

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa
Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa
What makes this resort stand apart from other dive resorts in North Sulawesi?

SIMON & KELLY: By doing just an initial search on social media or our website, the images of Bunaken Oasis would have you believe that the answer lies solely there. There is no denying the fact that the vision that Simon and Elaine Wallace had for Bunaken Oasis — and what they brought to fruition — is nothing short of incredible.

However, there is so much more to Bunaken Oasis than what meets the eye, and I believe that the answer to this would be our personalised service and attention to detail. We pride ourselves in offering a professional, personalised, and intimate experience for all of our guests and it is important to us that non-divers, snorkelers, and experienced divers are all recognised equally. Our team works very hard in focusing their attention on small details such as warm face towels after each diving session, 2-to-1 guest dive/snorkel ratios, knowing guests by name shortly after arriving, ice tea being served poolside anytime you arrive at the pool, and having the equipment set up and ready to go by the time you arrive onboard the spacious dive boats. It is due to these small touches and the genuine warmth from our staff that, time and time again, our guests end up wanting to return.

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa has consistently committed to eco-responsibility as it also helps, in particular, the reservation of the Bunaken Marine National Park. What can you tell us about it and why do you believe this cause is vital for the hospitality and tourism sector in Bunaken, North Sulawesi?

SIMON & KELLY: Most, if not all businesses in Bunaken, are either dive shops, local restaurants, homestays, backpackers, or resorts. What we all have in common is providing services to tourists who are coming to Bunaken solely to experience what the Bunaken Marine National Park has to offer — whether it be for diving, snorkelling, or boat cruises. The marine park is our livelihood and without it, none of us would have a business or income. Therefore, it is not solely one person or one organisation’s job to safeguard it — it is the responsibility of all of us. As one of the leading PADI Eco resorts in North Sulawesi, we understand that we have to be role models in the fight towards preserving this fragile ecosystem, and we do so by supporting government organisations such as the local balai (marine park rangers) and being the first resort in Bunaken to support a local NGO called No Trash Triangle Initiative that has assisted and continued to assist us in training our team on proper waste separation measures and recycling, thus paving the way for other resorts to follow suit. We also focus on initiatives outside of Bunaken such as providing funding for river barrier projects on the mainland that, subsequently, reduce the amount of waste seen washing up on the Bunaken shores. Most importantly, our biggest focus is on the education of the local community, and one of the main responsibilities that we take on is offering a dive guide internship programme twice per year in which we not only provide candidates with a career by training them from being open-water divers to being rescue divers, but we also teach conservation and preservation of Bunaken Marine National Park. We also incorporate, into the programme, initiatives such as beach clean-ups, participating in Dive Against Debris dives, marine-conscious dive briefings, talks on marine education, and many more.

There is a very good quote by a Senegalese poet Baba Dioum that perfectly sums up the importance of education for the younger generation and why we focus so heavily on this continued effort: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will only understand what we are taught.

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa has established a distinctive reputation for blending ‘luxury’ with ‘eco-travel’. Can you please elaborate on this concept? And why, from your perspective, offering a strictly luxurious experience to your guests is no longer sufficient in today’s world?

SIMON & KELLY: Following on from the above quote, we find that, in more recent years, more and more guests are more inclined to book a resort where eco-friendly practices are at the forefront of their operation. Guests want to be able to feel good about where they have stayed and they want to leave with the satisfaction of knowing that they have been a part of making even a small difference — all whilst still being able to have an enjoyable and relaxed holiday experience.

A resort’s challenge, and that of a five-starred nature like ourselves, is incorporating eco-friendly practices and measures that do not compromise on guests’ experience or satisfaction. I believe we do very well on this, and we are continuously implementing changes as we learn and continue to develop.

Some examples of our efforts so far are:

  • Providing branded, reusable water flasks on guest arrival as well as branded, linen-made shopping bags;
  • Producing our own water through a reverse osmosis process which allows us to have several water dispensers set up throughout the property for guests to refill their bottles. Each cottage is also equipped with a cold/hot luxury water dispenser. Such may limit having single-use plastic bottles thrown away on a daily basis;
  • Providing all amenities in cottages — such as shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, and even reef-safe sunscreens — on all our boats to limit the amount of plastic containers being brought to the island. That or, if and when possible, we would kindly ask the guests to take their empty containers back home with them for recycling purposes;
  • Implementing a battery club. We have many photographers who frequent Bunaken Oasis and we provide rechargeable batteries for all cameras, torches, and/or computer types to limit guests from having to travel and, inevitably, leaving their batteries on the island to be disposed of afterwards. The club, however, only requests donation fees which are later donated to the local schools;
  • Offering eco-friendly activities for guests to get involved in as they wish, such as participating in Dive Against Debris dives or planting mangrove plant saplings.

Eventually, every small action helps towards a common goal of being a more sustainable and eco-conscious luxury resort within a very fragile island ecosystem. Furthermore, this is to ensure the longevity of the resort and its commitment to providing jobs to the local community.

It does not escape my attention, either, that Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa also emphasises a harmonious cohabitation with the local community, such as providing fresh drinking water to the native villagers and supporting the non-governmental organisation (NGO) BunakenCare. What are the initiatives and support that you have made and given to the community thus far? And how would you describe your philosophy when it comes to social responsibility?

SIMON & KELLY: This is something very dear to the owners Simon and Elaine’s hearts. They believe that community involvement is a great way to give back, and we strongly follow those wishes as they are similar to that of our own. Supporting the locals of Bunaken not only familiarises us with the community but also allows us to connect with people and ideas which, in turn, provides a positive, enriching perspective on our lives — on a personal level and a business level as a whole.

One of the most important acts that, we think, deserves an important mention is that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the owners continued to keep each Bunaken Oasis staff member employed as they knew that they had families and children to support. Yes, this set us back financially and we are still recovering in this regard to this day. Nevertheless, the loyalty and gratitude that we have in our staff can be seen every day in their work ethic and their willingness to support Bunaken Oasis.

We launched the Oasis Foundation shortly after arriving in Bunaken back in January 2023, and some of the initiatives that fall under this foundation are as follows:

  • Community assistance fund: We set aside a set amount of money each month into this fund. If a local school or a local church needs financial assistance, they can send us a proposal and we would assess it and provide assistance through the fund;
  • Dive guide training programme: We run this programme twice per year, in which we accept five candidates per intake and train them so that they can level up from being open-water divers to rescue divers;
  • Scholarship programme: We provide full university scholarships to our staff’s direct family members — however, with the exception of enrollment in law or medicine school;
  • Safe drinking water: This has never been more important than ever, especially in the last few days. Due to the volcanic eruption that happened in Mount Ruang this April, the rainwater in Bunaken was heavily affected by the fallen ashes, resulting in the drinking water that most of the local community would consume turning grey. We issued a statement to the local communities to help themselves to our community water tank which houses fresh, clean, and desalinated drinking water.
What is next for you guys and Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa? Any new plans or new amenities that we can expect soon?

SIMON & KELLY: The year 2024 is an exciting one for us as we finally feel that we can see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel that, we know, has affected many businesses — globally and Bunaken itself. Thanks to the ongoing support from our new and returning guests, we have plans to expand the resort with two-bedroom and three-bedroom family cottages — with a new land purchase currently in progress at the time of this article being published. We are putting more focus on our PADI/TDI Technical Diving facility and PADI Free Diving programs to allow us to offer a more diverse range of activities that are not yet offered in Bunaken. Lastly, we will continue supporting more local NGOs and governmental projects that are working on projects to help secure a longer future for the island, the marine park, and the local community of Bunaken.

Last but not least, how can our readers reach you guys and Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spa?

SIMON & KELLY: For booking enquiries and reservations, it’s best to contact Georgie who happens to be our marketing director. Georgie is currently based in the United Kingdom and she can be reached via email at [email protected]. For local enquiries, you can reach our onsite front office team via email at [email protected]. Or, if you like, you can chat with us directly via our email at [email protected]. The owners are very hands-on as well, and more than happy to discuss any ideas, feedback, or general questions. Simon and Elaine Wallace can be reached via email at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively.

For the resort’s official website, feel free to visit www.bunakenoasis.com. You can also find us on Instagram with the account name @bunakenoasisresort.

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